Presentation Vase

Thomas Fletcher American
Sidney Gardiner American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 731

In New York City, the most significant event of the early nineteenth century was the creation of the Erie Canal. Upon its completion, New York gained easy access to the country's interior, and its commercial hegemony was secured. A group of New York merchants commissioned a pair of monumental vases to be presented in 1825 to New York's governor DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), in gratitude for his promotion of the canal's construction. The bodies and handles are modeled on the famous Roman urn known as the Warwick Vase, which was excavated in 1770 near Hadrian's villa at Tivoli. Thomas Fletcher's competition-winning design for these vases features a scheme of allegorical figures and American vistas along the route of the canal. On the front of this vase, for instance, figures representing Fame and History flank a view of the Mohawk River's Cohoes Falls; on the back, a female figure (plenty) and a Native American are depicted with the Little Falls of the Mohawk. On the front of the other vase, the figures of Mercury (commerce) and Ceres (agriculture) flank a view of the canal's guard lock and basin at Albany; on the back, Hercules (strength) and Minerva (wisdom) are depicted with the aqueduct at Rochester and the falls of the Genesee River. The cover of each vase is surmounted by an American eagle finial.

The vases are marked by the partnership of Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner, who relocated from Boston to Philadelphia in 1811 in search of greater commercial success. Excellent entrepreneurs, they soon became the leading American supplier of presentation silver, as well as retailing a wide range of imported goods, such as brass, cutlery, and lighting fixtures. Fletcher and Gardiner are representative of the large urban firms that became increasingly common during the nineteenth century.

Presentation Vase, Thomas Fletcher (American, Alstead, New Hampshire 1787–1866 New Jersey), Silver, American

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